News and Thoughts on Yale's Recent Uninvited Media Storm from George Odell (PC)

News and Thoughts on Yale’s Recent Uninvited Media Storm from George Odell (PC)

February 15, 2016 in Notes

Since 2014, I’ve been serving as the President of the a very different alumni association – of Atlantic Union College (AUC), in Lancaster, MA – and sitting on the AUC Board of Trustees, which has actually given me a window on the diversity crisis at Yale. In 1998 I earned my MEd at AUC, having become a dedicated Christian (Seventh-Day Adventist) in 1975. (Incidentally, the now famous Ben Carson ’73 is also an Adventist, and is close to AUC). AUC sits in contrast to our dear old Eli. It is a very small, struggling college that just reopened this last August after a 4 year bachelors degree shut down (not so uncommon these days – think Antioch & Sweetbriar). AUC also has for some time been flirting with status as a historically black college. This is the fact that makes it relevant to Yale’s recent racial travails. Since 1970, it’s enrollment has hovered in the range of 75% students of color.
But it is not only through this ‘non token’ diversity AUC, that I personally identify with the inflamed feeling of black marginalization. I could never, ever be categorized as a person of color (I’m almost as WASPish as old Elihu himself), but my nuclear family is black as the USA generally accounts ‘blackness’. In 1977, I married Hazel Shaw of Kingston Jamaica (as reported in Alumni Notes long ago). I like to to tell people I’m half black – my “better half”. That said, the four of us (including son Nathan and daughter Naomi) have been very happy and have personally avoided most racial angst.
Still, the experience of courting and marrying a black Jamaican, and raising two 50/50 children  —  who are viewed by our ‘advanced technological society as about ‘95% black, 5% white’  —  exposes the ‘systemic racism’ still prevalent in our society.  Unless it affects your daily life, you’re unaware of it.  But obviously, as Yale has been learning the hard way, its consequences are far reaching and insidious.
If you were to ask, I credit our personal happiness to many things: Hazel’s high level of patience, an accepting, but sadly all too un-diverse biological family, some good fortune in living in liberal minded neighborhoods, but mostly, a supportive and highly diverse Adventist church family, and the blessings of God.

So I pray this same God will bless AUC, Yale and the United States, as we continue to navigate these troubled waters.

​     George Odell

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